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Danger for sale: Deadly products, no regulations

Atlanta (HLN) A total of 69,100 children are rushed to the ER each year because of nursery products. Behind every accident, tragedy or subsequent recall is a face.

Lisa Olney lost her child to a faulty portable crib. Her daughter, Ellie, suffocated when the changing table attachment on her Graco play yard collapsed during a nap and pinned her neck against the side rail. She was just 13 months old. “It was surreal, and for the longest time I didn’t believe that it had really happened,” Olney said during an interview with Kyra Phillips on HLN’s Raising America. “Being a bereaved parent, it takes you quite awhile to realize the reality that your child is dead.”

recallSadly, Ellie wasn’t the first or the last child to die in a play yard.

During their grieving process, the family learned that the product that killed their child was completely unregulated in the United States. They, like so many, assumed that since a product was sold on store shelves that it was tested and safe. But that wasn’t the case.

They became advocates for change, and just weeks ago, the Consumer Product Safety Commission finally issued new, federal regulations. “I’m thrilled that the CPSC has now passed mandatory standards for play yards – the way they’re designed and the way that they are tested, better specifications on the product.” Olney said. “I had no idea that these standards didn’t exist before… that children’s products are out there and there is no demand for them to be tested in a particular way – and now (play yards) are protected.”

Where’s the recall? Dangerous products for sale

It comes at a time when government recalls are at an eight year low – just 97 products in 2012. Yet the number of incidents and injuries is way up and deaths shot up 200 percent from a year ago.

Kids in Danger conducted the study. The non-profit is dedicated to improving children’s product safety. KIDS Executive Director, Nancy Cowles, told Kyra Phillips, “Unfortunately, it’s possible to put products out there on the market that aren’t safety tested even though they’re intended for our most vulnerable children, our babies to sleep in, and that’s what led to many of the deaths last year.”

A new study shows that parents admit to hearing about one or two recalls a month at the most, but as Cowles points out, the government is issuing two a week. Many parents believe that if a product ends up on store shelves that it is safe. Parent Tested Parent Approved founder, Sharon Vinderine, told Kyra Phillips that’s not the case.

“There are 18 categories of infant and toddler products and only four of them have standardization around them,” Vinderine said, “and I don’t think parents notice that or understand that at all.”

That means thousands of children’s products go untested and unregulated every year in America. “Because they don’t fit the definition of a product that has a standard,” Cowles added, “through our system they’re simply allowed to be put on store shelves without that safety testing, and then, unfortunately, it’s our children that find the fatal flaws in them.”

So how can parents keep up with these recalls? Vinderine suggests:

In 2012, five children died in a child sleeper called Nap Nanny before the CPSC finally stepped in and recalled the product, and dozens of children died in drop crib and play yard accidents before the government mandated standards went into effect. “So it’s really about informing the parents about what kind of research they need to be doing, making sure they’re aware of recalls and registering their products,” Vinderine said.

Sadly, for families like the Olneys that advice and the government regulation came way too late. “It’s my hope to get the word out there to other parents, family members and caregivers” Olney stated. “Too many of us are too frequently saying, ‘Oh that won’t happen to me.’ But I know far too well, it can. It made me so thrilled to know so many people got to see my Ellie dancing across that TV screen (on “Raising America”). She has become her own angelic advocate.”

Written and produced by: Ben Bamsey for HLN’s “Raising America.”

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